Do We Need Another Project Youth?

With the demise of proper football stadiums into soulless concrete bowls, there are few genuine pleasures in the modern game.

One remains the emergence of young players into the first XI. Of course, each club has some many first XI’s these days thanks to the fad of changing the team for cup competitions that it is no longer the arduous journey of yesteryear.

However, the flip side of that is the weight of expectations which fall on those young shoulders. Since Thursday night, Gabriel Martinelli has been in the spotlight. He did well, so why not?

Well, for starters, he found himself compared to a young Cristiano Ronaldo. Why we need to compare young players to those who’ve made the grade and gone beyond 99.9% of other players is bizarre. Martinelli might end up that good but using that yardstick is setting him up to fail.

The interesting aspect of his performance is how it affects Eddie Nketiah. He’s missing out on a season of cup football at Arsenal by sitting on the Leeds United bench or playing for their Academy side. In short, he hasn’t improved his lot. Which makes me question whether the motive for his loan was development or shop window?

That was always the issue when he chose Leeds. Great to be coached by Bielsa, excellent to be part of a title-chasing squad but is he really better served going there and spending a year on the bench or in the cup sides?

I’m truly unconvinced it is better than staying at Arsenal and being a substitute in the Premier League or our cup striker. If Martinelli continues with good performances, he’s likely to be ahead of Nketiah in the queue for the starting line-up.

That’s an interesting post-season dilemma for Unai.

The Premier League Is The Bread and Butter

One question which remains unanswered is how Martinelli will fare in the Premier League. We may find out in cameos rather than full appearances. If he starts a game, then we’ve hit an injury-crisis.

Of course, he might feel he deserves a crack in the big time. Two goals in a midweek cup competition? Repeating that trick against Vittoria and Liverpool may well open the door. His future is less clear, however. During the summer, Emery said the player needed a season of adaptation. Judged on Thursday night, the boy is a quick learner.

Which, of course, is overstating the case, building him up before the foundations are in place. The thing easily forgotten is that young players plateau and are inconsistent. They rarely produce week in, week out.

Reiss Nelson enjoyed what was probably his best game for the club on Thursday. He’s done well this season without pulling up trees. Expectations were high in pre-season but those are lowered and Bukayo Saka is ahead of him in the team. He’s been inconsistent as youth always is.

And the problems are magnified when they come with a £72m price tag. This week has seen the pundits launch into Nicolas Pepe.

Michael Owen’s desire to be football’s ‘Mr Nasty’ saw him criticise Pepe’s 24 minutes against Standard while Martin Keown observed Lille must be laughing all the way to the bank. Tyler on Monday night opined that people shouldn’t judge the young man on six appearances and then promptly did so.

Pepe himself admitted to struggling to adjust to England with his confidence taking a knock. He’s confident his confidence will return. But as we’ve seen before, Ligue Un to the Premier League is a big jump and he’s currently struggling.

Time Is A Great Healer

The problem at Arsenal is we are desperately searching for answers. This is a squad which is underperforming with a coach who is losing his audience. In those circumstances, everyone looks at the young players in the hope there are some gems to save us.

That’s a hefty burden to bear and arguably one players at a club such as Arsenal should be able to cope with. In fairness to them, they are.

We’re approaching the last international break of 2019 so not much change is expected to the team which will face Bournemouth. But at Sheffield United in a fortnight’s time? Expect wholesale changes in defence with Holding and Bellerin back.

Or maybe just the Spaniard. Maybe, like Xhaka, Emery trusts Luis and Sokratis despite evidence to the contrary. Rob Holding is likely to have to wait for his return to Premier League action. This despite his presence for most of our long unbeaten run last season.

The question of whether youth will get its chance rests with Unai Emery. Raul talked a good game about the Spaniard promoting young players and developing them. Unai does as well. This season is the time for him to deliver.

And there’s some surprise that we, the supporters, are placing all our hopes on another Project Youth. We got badly burned last time around. It strikes me our problem is necessarily that but the quality of the experienced players around them. That’s tougher to address and takes a lot more money.

Money we don’t have unless we return to the Champions League. Returning to which, it seems, is reliant upon youth…

’til Tomorrow.

12 thoughts on “Do We Need Another Project Youth?

  1. Emeka says:

    Aww… Not boom…
    Marinelli though… What a player… And to think he can still get better. Wholesale Changes after the next break are imperative… By November end we should know where we stand with emery…. Or not..

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  2. jonnygunner says:

    Lovely write up YW…..I happened to be scrolling thro’ all things Arsenal when ACLF email popped up……it happens from time to time-so I took full advantage of a ‘boom situation’.
    It would appear that Martinelli has hit the ground running,Saka too.Nelson will need to up his game to get regular appearances for us this season-competition is pretty fierce it would seem,as poor old Eddie has found out.
    I, like probably most on here(and around the Gooniverse)am hoping that Unai the tinkerman mark 2 finds his ideal first team before too long.
    It’s mighty frustrating for us to watch a bang average team turn us over,particularly given the squad we have.It must be said that I am guilty of wondering what another manager could do with this bunch instead of Emery,but,I suppose he has to be given some time(especially with the injuries we’ve had).
    If we’re not up and running by Christmas then I think it’ll be tatty bye for the Spaniard next year.
    My only slice of comfort in all of this is that United and the Spuds are both in turmoil.

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  3. Michael says:

    Morning all
    Some of the youngsters will fall by the wayside invariably, but we don’t know who. Personally I’m loving watching them in the cups and Europa, its a bit like a competition without the pressure at the moment and enjoyable to see them play so well.
    What tomorrow brings is anyone’s guess.
    The first team need to try to win games instead of trying not to lose them.

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  4. Saa says:

    Watching Tim sherwoods reaction to the spuds is priceless… Now brushing aside Eddie Howes army tomorrow is all that’s left for a perfect weekend

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  5. Woolwich Freddie says:

    Good Afternoon, interesting thoughts.

    I’m up for another Project, as long as we’re willing to throw a few experienced hands who are actually respected into the mix. Which, I suppose just drags us back towards the leadership debate we’ve been having.
    The other caveat is that young players have to actually be in contention for their positions long term. I’m not too worried about Pepe yet but is he really going to be displaced by players we didn’t pay a fee for, even though it would probably do him good? The others mentioned have earned a shot. Nelson’s progress has been the quietest but I wonder if he isn’t going to turn out the most well-rounded, useful, and consistent of the youngsters.?

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  6. C says:

    Just saw a stat that in the Spuds last 28 matches in all competitions they are 9-5-14.

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  7. C says:

    Project youth, well when you look at our squad, its sort of their already. Torriera, Guendouzi, Pepe, Tierney, Bellerin, Holding, Saliba(on loan), Gabriel, Leno(in GK terms), Willock, Saka, Ceballos(hopefully we can sign him permanently) Nelson are all young and then mix in top class strikers in Lacazette and Aubameyang in their prime and that is Project Youth but with experienced youth, but youth non-the-less.

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  8. jonnygunner says:

    Woolwich Freddie:
    Good Afternoon, interesting thoughts.

    I’m up for another Project, as long as we’re willing to throw a few experienced hands who are actually respected into the mix. Which, I suppose just drags us back towards the leadership debate we’ve been having.
    The other caveat is that young players have to actually be in contention for their positions long term. I’m not too worried about Pepe yet but is he really going to be displaced by players we didn’t pay a fee for, even though it would probably do him good? The others mentioned have earned a shot. Nelson’s progress has been the quietest but I wonder if he isn’t going to turn out the most well-rounded, useful, and consistent of the youngsters.?

    No-you’re dreaming

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